Eye on Earth (Day 3 – Morning) – Enabling Conditions and access to information, participation & justice

Building on the themes of Data Demand (on the first day of the summit) and Data Supply (on the second day), the last day of the Eye on Earth Summit explored the enabling conditions that link producers and users of data.
wpid-wp-1444288732480.jpgBefore the first plenary, the World Resource Institute (WRI) launched The Environmental Democracy Index (EDI). Lalanth de Silva noted that the index rank countries according to Principle 10 pillars: access to environmental information, participation in decision making, and access to justice. The index was sent to governments since its Beta version release in May. The responses led to adjustment scores. 70 countries are included, and 30 responded, including comments from civil society. The index was supported by 140 lawyers from across the world.
Jesse Worker (WRI) provided the background  The Access Initiative started in 1999 – network of over 200 civil society organisation in over 50 countries that are there to support Principle 10 pillars. The focus of environmental democracy are information, participation and justice. There have been progress since 1992 nad there are other regulations, such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). At the same time, laws are weak or absent in many countries. Practice also lags behind and there is no consistent measurement of progress of laws. The EDI is based on 75 legal indicators, following the Bali guidelines, with 24 supplemental practice (implementation) indicators. They started with 70 countries with 140 lawyers advising. Each country had two – one assessing, and one reviewing. On the website, each country got a short, accessible introduction and the country response is also included on the page. It provided civil society information about government intention. There is also the ability to rank countries. The indicators are based on established framework (Bali guidelines) with limited subjectivity on how they are evaluated, making it easily accessible – and engage governments and stakeholders. Also help civil society to learn about what other achieved. The top countries are Lithuania, Latvia, US, South Africa. It is noted that the signatories to the Aarhus convention, which is binding convention, are doing better. Countries with good laws tend to have better practices, access to information was ahead of public participation. 19 countries responded and they have done score changes. They aim to update it every 2 years, and reach global coverage by 2019. They also aim for Aarhus Convention specific indicators and expend the assessment of implementation.
For Jordan, (Seif Hijazi) commented that the EDI results were below expectation – they expected that the score will be higher, based on their perception of the legal system in their country. The score of Jordan scored 63 out of 70. Some examples: recently enacted law to access and request information from the government, as there are limitation – e.g. the applicant need to demonstrate direct interest which is difficult in law. In public participation, the EIA regulations require public participation – but no legal requirement to consider the comments from the public. Government officials agreed with the scores – and they want to take corrective measures to improve the situation. Jordan is one of the fewer countries in the region to have access to information law.
For Jamaica (Danielle Andrade), the score was especially law on participation, especially environmental impact assessment, policy and law making. The EDI provider a new impetus for working on legislations for public participation – and the government dusted off drafts from 2011 and work on implementations. The assessment of the EDI are used for legal reforms. There is a process of extending Principle 10 in South America and Carribean and the EDI form the position of the country in such negotiations. The score on access to justice the score midway, with lacking support for groups and individuals to fund their representation in court.
Generally, Participation is the pillar that lags behind. Even in democracy there aren’t enough public spaces to engage with government. Comments from Italy, Jordan, Italy and Lebanon about the importance of participation and the need for active civil society to promote it. Jesse – they worked with the TAI network members, because of limited resources, and most European countries are members in Aarhus to develop indicators specific to this system. Participation laws and practice – people need timely information to be informed citizens. People have constraint on their time, and they need timely information in the public domain and know that their comments will be taken into account – you need to know that your comments will be taken seriously. There are gaps between proactive information disclosure and what is done in practice. Requirement to provide information on facilities that have big impact on the environment. Assessing public participation is very difficult. There are also laws that limit the scope of civil society, so it is an ongoing issue that require monitoring.

wpid-wp-1444292368277.jpgThe first plenary of the day developed the theme of the day Creating the enabling environment – getting attention, remembering and acting is important. Opening with Jim Toomey – as a cartoonist, committed to the ocean and worked with UNEP on communication of ocean related issues. There is also revolution in the media industry in terms of sharing it and accessing it, and it is under similar transitions to the data . With his comics, he mixes entertainment with message (e.g. cartoon that is about sustainable sea food). Media is very powerful – e.g. celebrities on the web compared to information on climate change (see pie chart in the slide!). The ability to create content and because it is without much commercial interest, it allows new forms of producing and sharing information. Issues of climate change, or ocean acidification are critical, but the media is not covering it – so do become your own media campaign. He looked at issues with UNEP, including Blue Carbon, Climate Change, Sea Level Rise and more.

The plenary, which included a keynote and short statements, included Inger Andersen (IUCN) chair, with Enrico Giovannini (economist and statistician University of Rome); Carmelle Terborgh (Esri); Patricia Zurita (Bird Life international)

wpid-wp-1444293721980.jpgInger – we stand at a crossroad, and we need to make them with a sense of understanding of the choices that we make. We are on unsustainable path, increased inequalities, stresses on the environment, biodiversity loss etc. We see extinction of species 1000 times the natural rate – we need dramatic change in policy direction and action. We are making choices – the SDGs are not just a list of goals – they are about choosing a different path. Next Paris COP21 will need to demonstrate that we can get on the path for 2 degrees and action towards it. We need good data to make good decisions – we have drops of information from seas of data. The enabling conditions are not there to link data into environmental information that is relevant. The conditions that are needed: financing – IUCN Red Lists and other knowledge products that are needed for many decision-making – the datasets are very cost-effective, with amazing body of volunteers with 300 volunteering years. We don’t see the investment that come with it. The data that go to other system – the global observatory on climate is funded in billions. People are happy to get environmental information for free, but this is not matched with investment. Open data is interesting, but also raise issue for professional scientists of credit, plagiarism etc. There are also the technologies and the use of the data from remote sensing (e.g. WRI Global Forest Watch). In some way, conservation is lagging behind the attention to climate change. How we can we also improve ocean monitoring – we need them to be able to make decisions. Better tools matter also to enable implementation, environmental impact assessment. Lets make tools actionable. Capacity building is key, with different funds – need ‘feet on the ground’ to make conservation possible. We also need the resources to make knowledge available and they get direct benefits from these activities. The conservation movement is a greying movement – how are we going to fire up the new generation, with love of nature? How to inspire children to be part of this army for good.

Enrico – We want to generate information and science to anticipate what people will experience. Enabling conditions are about the overall environment to reach the SDGs goal. A thought experiment is: What a brand new country want to reach the goals? They will have to put SDG in the constitution, and should have assessment of any piece of legislation to check that it fit the SDG. Enabling conditions go beyond financial, technical or statistical conditions. A UN report on the data revolution for sustainable development influenced the statistical monitoring of SDG. We are not moving at an appropriate speed – in the way UN system react, we won’t have baseline until 2019. We need these baseline faster. There is waste of money in international organisations – e.g. in visualisation system or data repositories and lack of sharing data. We need a new social contract with the private sector and companies to get information that is needed for sustainable development data. Speed is required, and we need to avoid waste and share resources.

Carmelle – need to have integrative framework, GIS is a way of bringing issues together. Making it possible to integrate issues that lead to action. GIS is essential to man y decision making, and need to think about networked GIS as a way to allow geographic understanding across organisation. Need to have capacity for people to be able to access information, but also make it possible to access and use open data. Should use maps to tell stories – illustrate key issues. Empowering people through apps and devices is a way to make information useful in context. GIS and geospatial technologies are needed as part of an enabling condition.

Patricia – Bird Life International – 150 organisation about nature, with birds as ambassadors. The issue is how they make impact on the ground. They created IBAs – with huge volunteer effort and multi-million dollars investment. The try to turn information into stories, such as the Marine IBA e-atlas to help protect and conserve areas across the globe. Taking action is about empowering local people, through technology – not just information gatherers, but being able to interpret data and use it for local decision-making. There is need for adequate resources – not only to collect it but also to monitor and continue to invest in it over time, how to ensure that we got the funding to upgrade technology as much as the private sector? How can it be done that without capitalising on intellectual property ? We can have hybrid access models to ensure income. We need to have local to global approach. We need to maintain to continue and maintain the science team so there is the robust understanding of what was collected. We need to turn sources like the Global Environmental Outlook into digestible pills.

Following the panel, the session Principle 10 of Rio Declaration– for better environmental governance and access for all in different regions explored “Efficiency and accountability of policy development can be further enhanced through a more open access to environmental information and data as well as better conditions for public participation in environmental decision-making thus aiming for environmental  governance improvement.
Major progress was achieved in this regards on the regional level since Rio Conference and especially after Rio+20 Conference on Principle 10 (access to information and  public participation on environmental matters) promotion and implementation. Most recent development marks the Latin American and Caribbean regions Principle 10 process where 20 countries launched few months ago the negotiation of Principle 10 regional instrument.”

Alexander Juras (leading on access for all special initiative) chaired. He takes journey of principle 10 in different places. Start with a short video on principle 10 that is used to promote the Latin America process

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Principle 10 hold government to account, and some government don’t like it – in many regions of the world, it’s an ongoing struggle to make it


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Carlos De Meguel
(UN ECLAC) – process in the region of Latin America and Caribbean – the government should do their job to enable people to participate. It’s connect human rights, environment and access rights. In Rio+20 20 countries in the region decided to develop an initiative around Principle 10, with a link to different goals in the SDG. Principle 16 ad 17 are explicitly connected to Principle 10. There is progress, but challenges: lack of regulations, and many people without access to information due to economic, social, and political reasons. Sometime the information itself is lacking – need alternative ways of resolving conflicts. The need for regional agreement is to maintain compliance, to allow collaboration and increase commitments.The new agreement can potentially impact 500 million people. The process evolved from 2012 to 2014, with final negotiation starting now. There are many resolutions, also in intergovernmental forums – a lot of political backing. Structure of the document include the 3 pillars and other aspects – with reference to Bali guidelines and other developments since Principle 10. There is also wide public consultation on the document. Aim to reach it by 2016.

wpid-wp-1444327816347.jpgDanielle Andrade (lawyer for Jamaica/ TAI)  and Andrea Sanhueza (founder of TAI)- Danielle opened, discussing the impact of access that influenced people’s life. The Caribbean are not only a holiday spot, for example she told the story of state-owned sewage plant that was malfunctioning since the 1970s, but continue to receive effluent  and created local problems. Only with an NGOs they manage to bring court action about neglecting the site, and use freedom of information to demonstrate that people were charged to pay for fixing the plants. That led to fixing the sewage plant. Andrea talked about examples from Ecuador – in 2004, in Tumbaco, some people had headaches and skin condition. They done tests and suffer from arsenic poisoning. They water system was managed by the municipality and they set out public group for water without arsenic, and they used attention in the media and investigation of the case by the government. The analysis included a range of tests, showing the impact of blood contamination that came from an external lab in Canada. The municipal company argued that they can’t deal with the pipes, but changed the source of water and that helped in solving the situation.

Tsvetelina Filipova (REC for Central and Eastern Europe) – Building Bridges between regions http://building-bridges.rec.org/ – Aarhus change behaviour of government and people who understood that they have a right – that’s because it was legally binding. The process was not ideal, and lots of countries had difficulties – many countries were ready, but even the countries that thought that they are good in Principle 10 legislations, failed many time. The project is about inter-regional cooperation  and helped in sharing the experience from Aarhus to Latin America. Some benefits: supporting the negotiation process and have experience on how to deal with issues that come up. There is also experience and interregional experience on how to implement, and also empowering stakeholders. In all these initiatives it is people who are pushing the process forward. The process require funding so it is inclusive enough. The implementation of the bridges was through training and live on-line exchange seminars – sharing good practice, draw recommendations on running the process efficiently. The benefits: designing, drafting, negotiating, implementation and interpreting. Some of the people are involved in working on these issues since 1996.

Alexander Juras – The Aarhus also helped in instilling democratic values in many countries that use to be part of the Soviet union.

wpid-wp-1444302028231.jpgJeremy Wates (European Environmental Bureau, past secretary of Aarhus) – development of Principle 10 in the Middle East and north Africa region. It is not enough to have environmental information system, if you don’t provide the legal rights – don’t treat it as a marginal aspect to Eye on Earth framework, it need to be central processes. The second point is that Aarhus convention is not being talked about enough, and taken for granted, not that it all gone right and there are real challenges to fit within it – even today the EU is struggling to comply. Aarhus apply to many countries with long and shorter experiences of democracy. The building bridges is about a forum for dialogue – lots of mistake that can be learnt from. The next region to open this dialogue in is the MENA region, but the political situation in the region lead to select few countries to start. Starting with Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and UAE, with the aim to implement Bali guidelines better. Some of them been aware of the Aarhus process. The hope is to get enhanced environmental performances, and participatory government. They see 4 main actions in the process: raising awareness, carry out gap analysis to see what is already in place and what information already available. Then encourage government and civil society in Aarhus convention process and strengthen civil society organisations and network. That is aimed over 2 years projects. The issue is to get partnerships going

Stephen Stec (Central European University, author of the Bali guidelines and Aarhus implementation guide). covered Bali Guidelines – an effective tool for implementing Rio Principle 10 at the national level. The standards for the rest of the world are the Bali guidelines from 2010. It’s global instrument for Principle 10, and base on national experience and the international experience from Aarhus. He covered the Bali guidelines – they are voluntary and request driven, to help filling gaps in national legislations. There are 26 guidelines – most in access to justice, and the early one are about access to information. In the Access of All special initiative of EoE included several outcomes – the environmental democracy index, then UNITAR national profiles that is part of the Environmental Governance Programme – national assessment and tailored capacity building. UNEP also run Regional Workshops to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue on Rio Principle 10 and the guidelines and the implementation guide on Bali guidelines that was launch on the first day.

Discussion: moving beyond Principle 10 and starting to think about how we support public production of environmental information? This is a growing area, and the information completely changed. Seeing citizen science that it will take care of itself – say the chemical release inventory, worth putting the effort in the current extension of principle 10 into more areas. For less developed IT countries for further promotion of right, improving active citizenship can be done through citizen science. Public Production of information – if you want to provide data in non-traditional data is the issue of recognition and allowing it to be used in decision making processes. Daniella give an example of community data collection in a mining case to complete the data gap. In the current Principle 10 , require certain standards – and it might find its way into agreement

A question from Cameroon about the legal framework for access to justice in terms of cost, expertise and when the bridge will reach Africa? the experience is that you need government that is committed to the idea of regional convention, which also have leadership in transparency, stability, open etc. That work in the LAC area. The limitation on building bridge are the costs of extending projects.

From Mauritius – for small island states – Rest of the World region. Working with UNEP is very complicated and as new network how they can work together when they have limited ability.

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mukih

Professor of GIScience, University College London

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